When the Indiana Charter School Board recently approved two new Charter Schools USA schools to open in Indianapolis, the corporate school honeymoon was on. The East Indianapolis Charter Academy and the South Indianapolis Charter Academy, Charter Schools USA claimed, would be “feeder schools” for students to eventually enter the three other Indiana public schools the Florida for-profit company will be handed $2 million yearly to “turnaround.” “Feeder schools” is an appropriate term, for what these schools do is “feed” taxpayer’s money to Charter Schools USA (CS USA) and whatever other for-profit companies it brings to Indiana.
As I’ve noted in “Jeb Bush’s Privatization Plans for Indiana Public Schools,” thanks to Mitch Daniels and CS USA’s founder, Jonathan Hage, Indiana’s supt. of corporate education, Tony Bennett, has been welcomed into the Bush crony capitalism family. Bennett, undoubtedly, has helped Hage handpick the charter schools’ puppet nonprofit board, the Indiana Charter Education Foundation, to rubber stamp whatever Hage desires, and what Hage wants is Indiana taxpayer money. Besides connections to the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, the Mind Trust, Teach for America, the New Teacher Project, Teach Plus, and the IDOE, Hage’s Indiana Charter Education Foundation offers PhD’s in corporate school reform through the teacher program at Marian University.
A BOARD FOR CORPORATE COMMERCE
Derek Redelman, Indiana Chamber of Commerce’s vice president for education and work force policy, is one crony capitalist CS USA has picked for its Indiana Charter Education Foundation board. Redelman has been behind the Indiana corporate school movement for years, even lending his hand to the 2001 state charter school bill. Last year, after the Chamber attacked Vigo County School Superintendent Danny Tanoos, I emailed its leader and Redelman the following letter, a shorter version of which was printed in the Terre Haute Tribune Star. This details Redelman and the Indiana Chamber’s agenda:
Dear Kevin Brinegar, CEO, Indiana Chamber of Commerce,
Not content that Citizens United Terre Haute lawyer James Bopp, Jr. and your lobbying against the Disclose Act made it legal for undisclosed corporations to endlessly fund the destruction of democracy, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce now has the nerve to call Vigo County School Corporation Superintendent Dan Tanoos a “bully” for exposing the charter school scam. Such hypocrisy sounds like a typical case of what psychologists call “projection” on your part. Isn’t being a “bully” a prerequisite for joining your brotherhood?
To anyone looking, last year’s award the Indiana Chamber of Commerce bestowed upon Tony Bennett, Indiana Superintendent of Public Education, sums up your quest to bulldoze education out of this state. As an opportunist like his wife, Bennett selected two charter school cronies to his educational transition team in 2008: Mr. Derek Redelman, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce’s own pseudo-researcher who founded the Indiana Charter Schools Association and worked at the Koch-funded Hudson Institute; and Don Willis, the Mitch Daniels, Jr.-donor formerly of Imagine Charter Schools, who broke Indiana’s Open Door Law in Fort Wayne.
Last I heard, Imagine Schools illegally operates as both a for-profit and non-profit organization (if you could update me on this or clarify Imagine’s IRS status, it would be highly appreciated, since the government will not comment), and Dennis Bakke, their CEO, has a long history with your governor going back to 2001 with the AES-Indianapolis Power and Light Company merger, where IPALCO stockholders and workers lost millions, including their 401k packages, after Daniels, Jr
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Sadly, you and Mr. Bennett wish to use “Play Dough Economics” to teach these same psychopathic tricks to Indiana kindergarteners, so they, too, can grow up to steal the pensions of their former teachers just like big Wall Street criminals do. The governor is your perfect orbitofrontal lobe damaged hero, in this regard; as recent neuroscience suggests, there is a fine line between the Jeffrey Dahmers of the world and the Republican leadership.
A policy brief to you and your MBA-friends-turned-fake-educators: we do not need a sociopathic society where schools become profit-making factories and kids gobble and throw up I-STEP test answers like Big Macs and boloney. And honestly, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce has no right to tell teachers they should work as slave laborers in charter schools run by the rich who use rental schemes to rake in millions of taxpayers’ money.
After apologizing to Superintendent Tanoos and those working daily with the fine children of Vigo County, Indiana, you should pass along to Mr. Bopp, Jr. (and Counterfeit Christian, Dennis Bakke) the words Eugene V. Debs spoke from his prison cell to a reporter in 1919 on the real meaning of Christ:
I told my friends of the cloth that I did not believe Christ was meek and lowly but a real living, vital agitator who went into the temple with a lash and a krout and whipped the oppressors of the poor, routed them out of the doors and spilled their blood and got silver on the floor. He told the robbed and misruled and exploited and driven people to disobey their plunderers, he denounced the profiteers, and it was for this that they nailed his quivering body to the cross and spiked it to the gates of Jerusalem, not because he told them to love one another.
I’m waiting for Redelman and your Republican friends to include that quotation in your private school and charter school curriculum.
ALL ABOARD CS USA
Marian University’s connections to Tony Bennett, Mitch Daniels, and corporate schoolers are wide. As many remember, in 2010 the Indiana Department of Education awarded Marian University’s Academy for Teaching and Learning Leadership a $500,000 grant to help turn around failing Indiana schools, even though it wasn’t the most qualified college to initiate the program. For this program, the Kern family and the right-wing Sagamore Institute also helped, and besides the pseudo-research from Walmart scholars, Marian hopes to use content from the Richard G. Lugar Franciscan Center for Global Studies and the Center for Catholic Stewardship as a part of their academy curriculum to train future Indiana school leaders. Marian University’s president, Daniel Elsener, donated to Tony Bennett’s campaign, and was once Bennett’s wife’s boss when she ran Teach for America at the campus. Tina Bennett resigned after Karen Francisco and others at the Journal Gazette pointed out the conflict of interest. Elsener sits on the charter school cheerleading Indiana State Board of Education. And we shouldn’t forget that Lanier Echols, the teacher appearing in Mitch Daniels’ anti-teacher ads, is a former Teach for America member and is enrolled in Marian University’s Academy of Teaching and Learning Leadership. Charles Schlegel is a Marian academy “facilitator” and leads the Tony Bennett-honored Charter Foundation Academy charter school. Charlie’s wife, Mindy Schlegel, is the senior advisor for teacher quality at the IDOE and also sits on the KIPP Indy charter school board, along with Claire Fiddian-Green, formerly from the Mind Trust and now leader of the Indiana Charter School Board which approved CS USA’s applications.
Besides Molly Chamberlin, former IDOE charter school supporter and director of education options, members of Marian University’s corporate school training center are all over CS USA’s Indiana Charter Education Foundation (ICEF). One ICEF member, Joe Brown, now teaches a class at Marian University for students in the New Teacher Project’s Indianapolis Teaching Fellowship and Teach for America programs, where he is a doctoral candidate in educational administration. Another ICEF board member, Chandre Sanchez‐Reyes, was the training and resource manager for the New Teacher Project and now does assessments for Marian’s Teaching and Learning Leadership program. Importantly, the Mind Trust’s Ariela Rozman is currently CEO at the New Teacher Project. In November, the Mind Trust announced a Lilly Endowment grant of $3.5 million to the New Teacher Project and Teach for America to train 350 more corporate teachers in Indianapolis.
Another Marian corporate school program member appointed to CS USA’s ICEF is LaTonya Turner, the vice president of student life and leadership at Indy’s Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School (BJPS), a private school which this year charged $14,250 for tuition. BJPS’ most well-known alumnus is none other than Kevin Chavous, member of the hedge-fund run Democrats for Education Reform, the Black Alliance for Educational Options, and Amway-led American Federation for Children, the billionaire group which funneled millions of dollars into Indiana last year to support school choice. Disgracefully, Chavous joined Mitch Daniels at the statehouse this year, speaking on Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday, with no whisper of charter school racial segregation.
Marian’s Casey Patterson is also on CS USA’s puppet board and a frequent visitor to the Indiana Democrats for Education Reform’s corporate school facebook page. This is not surprising given she was recently the executive director of Indy Teach Plus, the group instrumental in passing Indiana’s anti-seniority teacher bill. In fact, Mary Ann Sullivan, Democratic legislator and Indiana DFER member, told the NY Times she was won over by Teach Plus, lying that its members were “genuine, real people versus the teachers’ union lobbyists.” Started by Mind Trust Education Entrepreneur Fellow Celine Coggin, Teach Plus has $4 million from the Gates Foundation to infiltrate six cities over three years to spread their anti-teacher seniority attacks.
Patterson has become quite the Indiana corporate school darling. She has appeared on TV with Tony Bennett and Mind Trust leaders praising the phony Waiting for Superman, and along with Derek Redelman, Patterson is an advisory board member of U. of Indy’s corporate school website, HoosierEd.com, whose leader, Robert Vane, is Charter Schools USA’s Indiana spokesperson. Alongside the Mind Trust’s David Harris, Tony Bennett, and others, Patterson helped Redelman with the Duke Energy/Cummins Foundation-supported Indiana Vision 2025 plan, which touts the benefits of school choice and STEM training for workers.
Yet most shocking is the fact that Jamie Garwood, a member of the Indiana Charter School Board (ICSB) which approved Charter Schools USA’s two applications for Indy, also attended Marian University’s corporate school reform program. The ICSB approved an Urban League application to run a charter school in Fort Wayne, too. At the time, Garwood was director of development at the Urban League and went on TV promoting the school.
CHARTER SCHOOLS USA EVERYWHERE
CS USA’s Jonathan Hage has admitted that he knows next to nothing about education and credits Jeb Bush for helping him expand his private charter school company. Starting with a $5,000 loan, Hage ended up with millions of state dollars when Jeb was governor, and his group now has 33 schools in Florida.
In Indiana, Tony Bennett is Jeb Bush’s Chiefs for Change corporate crony, so look for millions of dollars in Indiana taxpayer money to go into Hage’s pockets in the near future. Hage, in fact, recently told the Indianapolis Business Journal that CS USA had a 20-year commitment to Indianapolis. The five Indy schools the group is going to manage are just the beginning. It wouldn’t surprise me if more new CS USA schools invade Indiana, with the same Indiana Charter Education Foundation board members. That, pretty much, has been CS USA’s Florida plan since its inception.
Here’s Hage offering a history of his relationship with schools and Jeb and the Urban League–all politics, no children. It’s hard not to read his bio at Jebby’s Foundation and without understanding who he is and what he wants. Perhaps this little bit makes it more clear: “Prior to CSUSA, Mr. Hage was President & CEO of Integrated Strategies Group, Inc., a corporate and government-affairs consulting firm serving government, non-profit, political and corporate clients. He also served as a policy researcher for The Heritage Foundation, a Washington, D.C. based think-tank, where he developed and published public policy studies and articles. Mr. Hage provided research assistance and speech material for the 1992 Bush Presidential Campaign.”
You must recognize the simple fact that these are “charter school chains.” They are the educational equivalent of WalMart–eating up all local economic and political will.
photo credit: Brendan Fitterer